#UNLOAD recognizes the value of having art in the lives of children. Art– visual and performing arts –  empowers, heals, and helps youth who have been exposed to the trauma of gun violence. The #UNLOAD Education team, led by Darcy Hicks (Artist, M.Ed. and Visual Literacy specialist) and Jahmane West (a regional artist/mentor and founding member of the Artists Collective) helps them process and share these experiences. We host teen art workshops, organize youth summits, and partner with local after school programs, K-12 schools and universities to create opportunities to foster expression and dialogue about American gun culture. Our local partner organizations include: Fairfield University, the Quick Center for the Arts, Westport Country Playhouse, UCONN, Connecticut Writers Project, Neighborhood Studios, Connect-Us, Ely Center for Contemporary Art, CHAMP, City Lights Gallery, and Cos Cob’s Central Middle School.


Our education goal is to use the arts to empower students– those who live with the fear of stray bullets, lockdown drills, and the devastating loss of loved ones as well as those who have an attraction to firearms. We want to involve the next generation in efforts to reduce gun violence, crime, and the resulting anguish.  Based in our philosophy of “Look, Listen Hold Your Fire”, we use the multi-faceted process of making and looking at art to teach visual, analytical, and listening skills and develop these students into powerful communicators and advocates.


#UNLOAD partners with educational institutions and organizations  to inspire the next generation to create their own artistic responses to American gun culture. Here are some of our educational initiatives:

  • During our #UNLOAD art workshops at Neighborhood Studios, teens study and create art for social change. In 2018 they presented and exhibited their work in a show called #UNLOAD: Aim Higher. This year, they will create a large public mural in Bridgeport.
  • #UNLOAD brought school-aged performers from Bridgeport-based Connect-Us to view Thousand Pines, a play at the Westport Country Playhouse about the ripple effects of gun violence. They then created and presented to an audience their own dance, spoken word, and music performances in response to the play.
  • We partnered with Fairfield University to host an exhibit, #UNLOAD: Guns in the Hands of Artists that was seen by middle, high school and university students. Fairfield University also hosted several public panel discussions about guns and gun violence with leading experts.
  • The Ely Center of Contemporary Art hosted an art exhibit, #UNLOAD: Pick up the Pieces, that was inspired by or made using guns we collected in a Hartford gun buyback. The exhibit prompted an art for social change workshop, a youth summit that we coordinated with CAGV (Connecticut Against Gun Violence), and a spoken word performance by a veteran on November 11.
  • At Central Middle School and at the Connecticut Writers Project, in-school initiatives resulted in students writing and presenting poems, stories, and rap music.